We all want to experience the best sound possible when listening to music but you don’t have to splurge on the most expensive models to achieve it. Here’s our pick of over-ear, on-ear and in-ear headphones for less than £100 to consider this Christmas.
If you do have a bit more to spend, it’s also worth checking out the £215 wired Sennheiser HD 630VB or the £330 wireless Sony WH-1000MX2 – both over-ear models. Read the full reviews to find out how they performed in our lab.
Best Buy headphones – discover all the models we recommend.
Sennheiser Urbanite XL (£83)
If you’re in the market for street-style, bass-heavy headphones to give someone this Christmas, these stylish Sennheisers can compete with any of the Beats by Dr Dre models we’ve tested. They don’t suit complex classical pieces, but if your tastes tend towards pop, rock, electronic or jazz, you’ll love how the Urbanites lift your music.
If you have large ears or a large head, you might find the circular ear cups a bit of a squeeze, and there is cable noise if you rub or tap the cable, but they are very well built and the passive sound isolation is impressive. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better-value pair.
While the bass is accentuated as you’d expect, and can become thumpy, these Sennheisers ensure the sound remains well balanced, with plenty of high-end detail. Be sure to choose the variant for iOS or the one for Android to match the recipient’s smartphone so the in-line remote and microphone work with their phone.
Find out whether these headphones are good enough to be Best Buys in our full Sennheiser Urbanite XL review.
Sony MDR-ZX330BT (£49)
These mid-range Sony headphones are aimed at those looking for a high-performing wireless model at a good price, and these really do deliver.
This good-looking pair lasts for more than a day’s listening before needing to be charged – so you can be sure it will get you through long listening sessions worry-free. Vocals are clear, and listeners of more punchy rock, jazz and heavier music are also well served.
Not only this, but these Sonys are all-rounders, and excel at classical music. Strings are vibrant and orchestras both warm and full of detail.
The easy-to-use controls can be found on the right ear pad, and there is both Bluetooth connectivity and NFC (near-field communication) for supported smartphones.
Read our in-depth Sony MDR-ZX330BT review to find out if they are worth of a Best Buy award.
Bose SoundSport In-Ear (£75)
You don’t need to compromise your music on your run with these Bose SoundSport In-Ear headphones. The brand’s StayHear rubber tips help anchor the headphones in place while you work out.
Coming in three vibrant colours, regardless of whether you’re listening to pop or classical the SoundSports give you excellent, clear well-balanced sound with a good but non-dominating bass. Detail remains even at fairly low volumes, and they have a more open sound than most in-ear headphones.
It can take a bit of time to get used to how to fix them securely in place, but once they’re in you’ll almost forget they’re there. The cable can be a little prone to tangling, so be wary of this, but the StayHear tips do a great job of cutting down outside noise so you can hear all the detail of your music.
Be sure to buy the right variant so the in-line microphone and controls work with your iOS or Android smartphone.
Discover how these headphones performed in our test lab by reading our Bose SoundSport In-Ear review.
Apple In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic (£71)
These Apple headphones offer good sound across all genres, from classical to jazz to pop, as well as crystal-clear speech.
We found these to have a comfortable fit right across our listening panel, with two sizes of ear tips supplied. The good fit also means that, unlike many Apple headphones, these have a much-reduced level of sound leakage.
Be aware that the in-line controls on the cable only work on Apple products – iPhones, iPads and iPods. Also, due to the lack of a headphone socket on the iPhone 7 upwards, you’ll need an adaptor to connect them to the Lighting port on the latest generations of iPhones.
If you are an Android user, we would recommend looking for a pair with support for Android – the Bose SoundSports mentioned above are worth considering if you’re not the sporty type, or you could check out the Sony MDR-EX450 from only £30.
Visit our full Apple In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic review to find out how they scored in our tests.
Grado SR60e (£60)
The Grado SR60e old-school headphones are best designed for use at home, with a nice thick long tangle-free cable and solid construction, and are definitely built to last.
The sound is wide and open, with excellent clarity and life to the sound, with a dependable bass that never becomes overpowering.
And they will present your music excellently right across the spectrum from audiobooks to classical, from rock to pop. They are particularly exceptional when it comes to jazz.
The 1.7 metre cable means they’re not really suitable for using on public transport, and the sound leakage would irritate your fellow passengers. There’s also no mic or in-line controls.
They come with an adaptor for old-fashioned hi-fis, and the ear cups twist round, which means you can pack them almost flat into a suitcase – so you can take your music pleasures with you on holiday.
Find out whether this model scored highly enough to be a Best Buy in our Grado SR60e review.